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Decision Number
Educational Placement
Susan E.
Remsen-Union Community School District
Full Text

Ms. E. seeks reversal of a decision the local Board of Directors of the District made on September 13, 2005, to enroll her son in the District but not admit him "this school year to the regular academic program at the High School in Remsen, instead, the student should be provided access to an alternative program separate and apart from the regular academic program and that the student should not be allowed access to school extracurricular programs this school year." In this case of first impression, the parent of a child on Iowa's Sex Offender Registry ("SOR") challenges the District Board's decision to provide an education for her son apart from the regular student population. Jimmy S., who was 15 years of age this past May, sexually assaulted a younger minor, and was adjudicated delinquent for that offense in August of 2003. Upon disposition, he was committed to Woodward Academy, a residential treatment program for youthful sexual offenders. Upon his release from that program on April 1, 2005, Jimmy enrolled at his former resident district to finish the 2004-05 school year. There were no issues with either his behavior or with fellow students harassing him during those last nine weeks of the 2004-05 school year.

The superintendent listed the following rationale for his recommendation that Jimmy not attend regular classes: The District's prekindergarten through fifth grade population shared the attendance center with the secondary students, including the auditorium, cafeteria, hallways and classrooms for music, art, Title I services, and special education services. When Jimmy was released from Woodward Academy he returned to his resident district where the students knew him. The District had the responsibility of providing a safe environment for all of its students. Jimmy remained on probation to the juvenile court, and as a condition of his probation, an adult must be present at any occasions when Jimmy is near young children. Jimmy's alternative educational program was provided to him at the middle school attendance center, a building attended only by sixth through eighth grade students, after school hours. Jimmy was present at that building from 4:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. to receive tutoring in five classes. Superintendent Battles reported that Jimmy did well in all five classes.

As stated at the outset, this was a case of first impression for any appellate body ? judicial or administrative ? in Iowa. The operative statute is Iowa Code section 282.9(1). The Appellant frames her arguments as follows: (1) the local Board acted beyond the scope of section 282.9 and (2) the local Board's action denied Jimmy the process due to him. Given that the Legislature has conferred upon local school boards clear authority to make enrollment and placement decisions, we must apply an abuse of discretion standard of review. Sioux City Community School District v. Iowa Dept of Education, 659 N.W.2d 563 (Iowa 2003)(where a school district has statutory authority to act, our review is limited to determining whether the district abused its discretion). "In applying abuse of discretion standards, we look only to whether a reasonable person could have found sufficient evidence to come to the same conclusion as reached by the school district. In so doing, we will find a decision was unreasonable if it was not based upon substantial evidence or was based upon an erroneous application of the law. Neither we nor the Department may substitute our judgment for that of the school district." Id. at 569. [Citations omitted.]

The local Board cannot be said to have acted beyond the scope of the statute or otherwise erroneously applied section 282.9. Although there is no evidence in the record here that the local Board discussed Jimmy's safety, assuming for the sake of argument that the Board had done so, it does not strike us as an unreasonable consideration. As do all school districts and accredited nonpublic schools in Iowa, this District has an anti-harassment policy. Ms. E. argued that her son would be adequately protected by the presence of that policy. We simply have no record by which to determine that argument, and in any event, we need not address it. Under the abuse of discretion standard of review, we simply determine that there are insufficient grounds before us by which we can or should overturn the local Board's decision because Ms. E. has not shown that the local Board's decision was unreasonable and lacking rationality.

That the decision of the Board of Directors of the Remsen-Union Community School District made on September 13, 2005 was affirmed.